Music History

The Real Story Behind The Pogues’ Christmas Classic, “Fairytale of New York”

One of the most beloved modern Christmas songs of all time is “Fairytale of New York” from the Pogues with a guest appearance from the late Kirsty MacColl–even though it’s really not about Christmas at all.

The song was born sometime in 1985 when Jem Finer, the Pogues’ banjo player, started messing about with an idea.  He showed it to singer Shane McGowan who like it but didn’t really know what to do with it.

For the next two years, Jem and Shane struggled with the song. Coming up with the lyrics was especially difficult.  The original idea was to tell the story of a sailor heading to distant seas, but that didn’t work.  The song was abandoned.

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